San Francisco Examiner
5 March 1987
Communion: Whitley Strieber's encounter with another dimension
By Michael Heaton
of The Examiner Staff
It's old news, the sighting of little green men from outer space. It's also a classic sign of someone ready for the Hoo Ha Hotel. Author Whitley Strieber has written Communion: A True Story, his account of being visited and abducted by beings from another planet or dimension. He's not quite sure which.
Communion isn't to be confused with books like Space Aliens Took Me To Their Planet by Claude Vorilhon, an otherwise obscure Frenchman who some years back toured the United States asking for money because aliens told him to build a mansion on a hill with two swimming peals. Claude was a little short on francs at the time.
Strieber, on the other hand, is the respected author of several popular books, Wolfen and The Hunger, two horror novels that were later made into movies, and the non-fiction Warday, a scientifically based best seller about nuclear holocaust.
Though he has no proof, no artifacts from the experience, he writes about elaborate personal encounters with "intelligent non-human beings" who disturbed him enough so that he underwent a battery of physical and psychological tests.
He was examined by a neurologist and a psychiatrist and had a CAT-scan and a temporal lobe EEG. All of the test results indicated that his experiences were not caused by a known psychological or physical disorder. He also took a lie detector test, which indicated he was telling the truth about his experiences.
Whatever else you want to make of the book, it's a compelling read. One writer's mostly skeptical review did concede that the book is "a masterpiece of suspense."
After what he describes as an abduction by 3-foot tall creatures with rubbery skin and huge eyes, Strieber underwent hypnosis. In the book he says that many strange, unexplainable experiences dating back to his childhood were revealed in the sessions. Strieber says his wife and son have had similar encounters: The transcripts of Anne Strieber's hypnosis corroborate much of her husband's experience.
Strieber offers a variety of possible explanations. He says the visitors might be:
Is he for real? Apparently.
In person Whitley Strieber (pronounced Streeber), is pretty unremarkable aside from his ethereally blue eyes. Standing in the lobby of the Stanford Court Hotel, he looks as if be might be a young college science professor. He stands at roughly 6 feet, has prematurely gray, conservatively cut hair and wire rim glasses.
He wears a tweedy sports jacket, sweater and tie, has no weird glow about him and doesn't shout "Booga Booga!" when he shakes your hand.
When asked how the press was treating him on his publicity tour and if he had any concerns about being treated like a freak or being made fun of, he answers quickly.
"No one has done that. I'm not a freak. Part of what I'm trying to say is that whatever the extraordinary experience is, it's happening to a lot of people and they deserve to be treated with dignity. This isn't the 18th century where we laugh at people who have something strange happen to them or who have strange perceptions." he said.
During the course of the book Strieber seems to take different views on the incidents. When directly describing them they sound quite vivid. Later, when attempting to analyze what's happened, he writes with less assurance. He talked about that.
"It happened. I do believe it happened to me. There are times in my book when I waffle because there are times in my life when I waffle. Some people who thought, for whatever reasons, that they were abducted went through hypnosis and then revealed the event. I remembered it first - and then underwent hypnosis to remember more. What I got was just a fuller account of what I initially remembered."
Since the book has been published, Strieber says he has had five of what he calls Level One experiences with the visitors. The rating system is one of Strieber's own making: Level Three is seeming telepathic communication. Level Two is a physical experience that starts in a dream and has no witness. And Level One is an experience that begins when he is fully awake, or which has a witness or some remaining physical mark on his body consistent with the experience.
On Dec. 23 of '86 he had his last Level One experience and he described it:
"The night of the 23rd they awakened me by a method that has become standard. They punched me on the shoulder. It's like they're not too good at touching. Instead of shaking me it's like bang! I awoke and saw one of these beings standing by the side of the bed.
"In my mind I was aware that it was time to go, and went right out of the room being pushed on the buttocks by one of these beings. There was an automatic camera and a tape recorder at my bedside. I had rehearsed picking them up but didn't touch them. I think it was that they didn't want me to touch them, and that's why I didn't. I put them there because as this author tour came closer and closer, I became more eager to have something. I mean my God, I'm sticking my neck out.
"As we went along I saw one of my cats staring very intensely at me. I picked her up knowing that if I could touch her I would know this was not a dream. That's what made it a Level One experience. The cat was entirely real and very startled by it all."
According to Strieber, the difference between this visit and his first on Dec. 26 of '85 was great. During his initial visit he was pinched, poked and probed by the beings and has a recollection of a kind of brain surgery being performed on him.
"The whole thrust of what I've done with them has been decreasing the fear. My fear has gone from extreme to almost zero. I have accepted their strangeness, their power, their absolutely controlling qualities. Also I can see there has been a tremendous amount given to me by them in return, in terms of increase of consciousness, opening my mind, my spirituality. I feel an increase in my own humanity. I now look at mankind in a very different way than I did before. I look at man as a band of companions rather than a species with different races and languages. Everybody seems extremely familiar and a friend because I've been with strangers. If that's the only thing I've been given, it's a great thing. The awareness of what a stranger really is."
He continued tits account of the last visit.
"Besides the one on the cover of the book, there were three others there that night. One was very tall and big. Six or 7 feet tall, very Nordic looking and almost human-like but with a much broader face, a very flat face that looked like Max Von Sydow with a bigger head. There was a desk, and the one sitting behind it had a long sallow face with a long straight nose, two round eyes and a shock of black hair on top of its head, wearing a brown plaid flannel shirt. Standing right beside me was a human woman of 20 or 30 that I could recognize on the street. She looked down at me with a look of concern and almost motherliness and weariness and questioning that I would do what I was supposed to do.
"They asked 'What do you need from us?' I could have said an artifact thinking about the author tour, but what popped out of my unconscious mind, which is what they seemed to be appealing to, was 'I need to fear you less.' They said they would help me, but that it would be very hard. We then had an argument about the cat They said, 'We will put the cat to sleep.' I said, 'We can't, how will I explain this to myself?' They objected to the cat and used a very large hypodermic needle on her. The next morning I went looking for the cat and found her asleep downstairs. At first I was worried she might be dead but she was just sleeping very heavily. She slept almost the whole day, woke up, drank an enormous amount of water and went back to sleep. She was fine after that. She was also sore where the needle had gone in."
Strieber hasn't made things easy on himself in terms of credibility. His hypnosis session revealed periods of what he calls "missing time" in his life. A phenomenon experienced by many people who claim to have had encounters with UFOs, missing time means blacked-out periods in people's lives covering the minutes, hours and, in some cases, the days they spent "away."
Through Strieber's hypnosis, a number of these periods were revealed. In one instance, six weeks are "missing" from a trip he took in Europe. Many people who have the experience invent "cover memories" to explain to themselves or to others their whereabouts. Most "cover memories" are vague, sketchy remembrances that are almost impossible to confirm.
In a book called Faces of Fear, Encounters with the Creators of Modern Horror (1985, Berkley Books), Douglas E. Winter talked with Strieber and opened the interview with Strieber's graphic account of being pinned by sniper Charles Whitman during the Texas Tower Massacre.
Strieber writes in Communion that, according to friends, he was with them far away from the University of Texas where the shootings took place. Strieber credits the discrepancy to a "cover memory" and frankly admits he can't explain a lot of what has happened to him in his life.
"I'm very very confused by that Charles Whitman memory," he said when asked about the interview. "On the one hand I have very vivid. graphic and specific memories of the incident, and on the other a good friend of mine tells me I wasn't there. What's important to note, though, is that I brought it up in my book. The revelation is an attempt to honestly explain what's been happening to me. If I was trying to cover something up, would I bring up an inconsistency like that? I honestly don't know why my memory and my friend's memory of that day aren't the same."
Not unaware of the kind of skepticism that would be aroused by a horror writer writing a "true story" about being visited by aliens, Strieber asks only for open minds and hearts when reading the book.
"I know that one reviewer, a writer whose only distinction is that of being fired from Twilight Zone Magazine for being too harsh, is preparing a review in The Nation in which he implies that the whole story is a hoax and that I did it for the money. (Strieber reportedly got six figures from William Morrow for Communion.) In fact, the manuscript was rejected by 13 publishers before my agent found any interest in Communion. I didn't need to write it. I could have written another novel. I'm an established writer with a good reputation. Why would I hold myself up to the ridicule that a book like Communion brings? I felt that I had to write this book."
Three-quarters of the way into the book, by the time you're entertaining the thought of accepting at least the fact that Strieber believes in the experiences, there's a transcript of a discussion with other people who have had similar encounters. What's most disturbing is one woman's concern about the amount of control the visitors exert over those they choose, and what she felt was a lack of respect for their subjects. Strieber contends that the control is somewhat justified.
"When we're with them they don't allow us control over ourselves. If you were a scientist taking animals out of the wild and bringing them into a lab with very delicate instruments, you would have some sort of restraints, too. Physically, they do not look very strong. I also feel that our minds work faster. Maybe the condition we end up in is the best possible considering the high level of fear on both sides, our lack of understanding and the danger to us and them. It may be that they are doing their best to minimize the control or maybe they're real conservative and nervous."
Despite their strangeness, their control, and the involvement of his family, Strieber seems to feel that the beings are largely benevolent. He doesn't see them as evil.
"I don't think they are (evil). I'm sure they're not. I think they've been around for a long time, maybe forever, They've left me feeling that there is something very true about human religions. I feel an enrichment of my spiritual life. God now seems intensely personal. It seems that God is literally right there in my life. And in a totally familiar presence that I hadn't noticed before. They said to me, 'You do not know the extensions of love.' I took that to mean that I am not as spiritually awake as I could be. Sometimes they seem childlike and sometimes they seem to have the wisdom of the ages. Like children with the minds of 20,000 men. We could panic and make this a very frightening thing, a terrible experience, which I did for a while. Then I found I could make it into something useful that was worthwhile. It became very enriching."
Still, Strieber has reservations about his own perceptions and about what he feels might be those of his visitors.
"This won't be easy to figure out. I think we should be very wary of this experience. If something happens to me, you all will be fairly warned."
In the work of Donald F. Klein, director
of research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Whitley
Strieber "appears ... to have adapted very well to life at
a high level of uncertainty." ~
Communion: Whitley Strieber's
encounter with another dimension
By Michael Heaton
© 1987 San Francisco Examiner
Reprinted under the provisions of Fair Use